Yesterday I wrote about making sure your personal budget reflects your priorities. Because travel is such a big priority for me I rarely spend money eating out (except when I’m traveling, which is kind of the point of Mealtime Monday). This week, I decided to share a photo of something I prepared at home: Catalan Couscous Salad. I got the recipe from this cookbook, and have been enjoying this mix of spinach, whole-wheat couscous, pears, toasted almonds and homemade romesco sauce dressing ever since. A salad like this would cost at least $10 at a restaurant here, while for the same price I can purchase enough of the ingredients to make four meal-sized salads myself. The savings? Straight into my travel fund!
Sometimes when I’m out for dinner and drinks with my friends, they ask in awe, “How can you travel so much? Isn’t it expensive?”
Sure, hitting the road for eight weeks each year is expensive. But so is going out for dinner and drinks! A typically twenty-something Western lifestyle is full of unnecessary extravagances that we’ve come to view as “essential”, and by cutting out a lot of them (starting with dinner and drinks!) you can find a lot of room in your budget for travel. So how do I save money?
First, you need to open a bank account just for future travel. You don’t have to have a specific destination or time frame in mind, but know that one day, in the future, you’ll want to take a trip, so you need to be putting money aside all the time. I have some friends who travel first and pay later (thanks to Visa and Mastercard), but I believe a holiday should be relaxing, and worrying about how I’ll later pay for a trip (with added interest) is not relaxing.
Second, consider the opportunity cost of some of the money you’re spending. Remember, every dollar you spend back home is a dollar you can’t spend abroad. Not sure what I mean? Let me give you some examples from my real life.
|What You’re Buying
||True Travel Cost
|Dining out: A daily Starbucks and daily fast-food lunch, plus going out to a restaurant once a week costs about $5720
more than making those meals at home over the course of a year.
|With $5720 you could fly from a major North American airport to Barcelona or Amsterdam, and backpack comfortably (ensuites!) through several Western European cities (skipping costly London and Paris) for a month. Hmmm… Burger King or Gaudi?
|Transportation: I recently learned that the average person in my city pays $750 a year just in tax on their gasoline! That doesn’t even include the cost of the gasoline itself! By choosing to live walking distance from my workplace and access nearby services I keep my total gas (and public transit) expenses to $350 per year. My savings? $2600 annually.
||If it looks like you’ll work somewhere for a long time, or are in a position to choose between jobs, living walking distance from work can put $2600 into your bank account- enough for a flight from North America to Mexico, plus ten days at an all-inclusive resort or, my personal preference, a month of budget backpacking.
|Entertainment: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z are coming to town. My friends are so excited! What an amazing opportunity to spend $273 on a four-hour musical extravaganza!
||$273? $273! If you put that money in your bank account you could add some amazing extras to a Turkish holiday. How about sea kayaking over the sunken city of Kekova, canyoning through the Saklikent Gorge and paragliding off a cliff with views of nearby Greek Islands?
|Fashion: It’s the denim version of Sophie’s Choice. $180 for a pair of 7 for All Mankind bootcut jeans, or $25 for Old Navy’s bootcut version? It’s only $155 difference, right?
||$155 would buy you a durable, comfortable, ergonomically-correct 70-litre backpack, putting you on the path to travel bliss!
I am absolutely not saying there is anything wrong with Starbucks, two-hour commutes, concert tickets or designer jeans. However, there is something wrong with not understanding why we can’t afford the things we want most. Unless you’re a Russian oligarch (in which case, call me… really!) you probably don’t have enough money for every single thing you’ve ever wanted, and each purchase is a trade-off. Just make sure that the things you end up spending money on are actually the things that will make you happiest.
Something about stuffing one bag full of other bags and then trekking around the world seems a little… unnecessary… but that’s how I roll!
There are a few key bags that I bring with me on every major backpacking trip. First, there is my pack itself. I am passionate about a front-loading backpack as I think it makes it easier to keep your stuff neat and organized. My backpack is made by Asolo; it is very similar to the style shown above with the addition of a detachable day pack (with which I have a love-hate relationship… sometimes I’m so glad I have it, other times it’s a bit cumbersome), a separate zipped section on the bottom (for shoes and anything that might leak- love it), and snap-on, snap-off shoulder strap to carry the bag as a duffel bag (love it but lost it… if you find a detachable blue-and-black shoulder strap somewhere in Albania please let me know!).
I typically bring two purses with me. One, I carry almost every day and another for going out. I look for “day bags” with adjustable straps, secure zip closures across the top, and multiple pockets. The multiple pockets thing is really key when you’re carrying a water bottle (which is prone to condensation) as well as electronics or maps that need to stay dry. Kipling makes a few different durable purses that, while not being super-chic, serve my purposes well.
For evening I pack a small clutch with detachable straps and/or a wrist strap, for security. If I’m going on a pub crawl or walking alone at night I’ll just pop the very barest necessities into this little bag.
Finally, I travel with a large wallet. As a dual citizen I keep one passport in my wallet and the other somewhere else (I try to hide it in my locked backpack, usually), so I need a fairly big wallet. I love wallets with two zip compartments, as I can use one for coins in my current country and the other for coins from other countries that I might later exchange or save as a souvenir. I like a wide wallet that keeps my bills flat, and I always organize them from smallest to largest so I never have to rifle around for too long. While I typically buy neutral purses in blacks, browns and greys, I love a brightly-colored wallet because it’s easy to find it in my purse.
If you have room in your bag you might also consider bringing something to use as a beach bag. I didn’t have room last summer so I just threw my stuff into a plastic bag, but I always feel cuter when I hit the beach with my towel in a cute matching bag.
Posted in Don't Leave Home Without It, How to Dress, Packing Tips, Travel Tips
Tagged backpacking, backpacks, fashion, H&M, hosteling, Kipling, Pieces, polyvore, purse, purses, shopping, style, travel, Vera Bradley, wallet
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I receive no incentive from American Apparel even if you buy every single one of the remaining skirts!
In an earlier post I mentioned how much I love wearing knee-length skirts when I travel. And these skirts, now in the clearance bin on American Apparel’s website, are my absolute favorite. Over the years I’ve owned them in dark pink, bright pink, green, sky blue, navy (two!) and grey. When I worked in Mexico these made up the bulk of my work attire- I’d make the hot walk to work in a skirt with a tank tucked in, then throw on a lightweight blazer when I got into the air-conditioned office. When I backpack I do the same thing (sans blazer) but with a t-shirt or tank, and cover with a little cropped cardigan when the situation, or weather, calls for it. A lot of people mistake my top-and-skirt combo for a cute a-line dress. Pair with cute flats, wedge heels or flip-flops. These skirts wash like a dream and can by dried in the dryer or on a rack. If you buy a dark color I would suggest washing separately first to avoid any dye run-off (which is an especially big problem when you’re traveling in places that use harsh detergents).
Sadly the color and size selection isn’t what it once was, but there are quite a few options still available. While I often wear size medium in other AA clothes (and a large in their underwear to avoid thong-induced muffin top), I’m comfortable wearing these skirts in a small as long as I wear them more high-waisted, right under my bust. If you want to wear them at your navel then size up. At ten dollars a pop my recommendation is to buy them all- I promise you’ll love them!
Did you know Santa Claus was born in Turkey? It’s true! Saint Nicholas was born in Myra, Lycia, which is today part of southern Turkey. On one of my many bus trips along the Turkish coast I happened to pass through Myra and its bus depot; later I grabbed a slightly-too-sweet crepe at the Noel Baba Cafe (Noel Baba is Turkish for Father Christmas) in the little seaside town of Kas. Needless to say, when I ordered a chocolate-banana crepe for lunch (rather than for dessert) I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so extravagant!
Posted in Food, Mealtime Monday, Vegetarian
Tagged backpacking, crepe, food, kas, noel baba, santa claus, travel, turkey, vegetarian
Constant travel can take a real toll on colored hair. Non-stop exposure to sunlight, strange foreign tap water and a hectic schedule can leave you looking more like a vagrant than a voyageuse. However, there are a few things you can do to protect your hair and hair color while you’re abroad.
First, wash with a sulphate-free shampoo. I am beyond impressed with L’Oreal Evercreme Intense Nourishing Shampoo and the corresponding conditioner. The sulphate-free formula doesn’t contain harsh detergents that strip the surface of your hair or heavy waxes that drag your hair down and make it look stringy. This particular formula has a great scent too. You don’t need to pack a whole bottle of shampoo or conditioner- I pour some into a travel-size bottle and label the bottle contents with a permanent marker.
After you’ve shampooed and conditioned, protect your hair with a cream, lotion or spray that has SPF (just like your sunscreen). I am still clinging to the last few drops in a bottle of Dove leave-in protector that I bought (way too long ago) in Italy- when I apply this I absolutely cannot stop smelling my hair. I find that companies tend to cycle these products on and off the market, so you’re unlikely to find the same SPF hair product one summer as the next, but it looks like this summer one is available from Angelo David (it’s called the Vital Complex Leave-In Conditioner). I typically dye my hair a little bit darker in summer anyways, as I know the sun tends to lighten it, but by adding SPF to my haircare routine I can ensure my color doesn’t go too light.
You can also protect your hair by washing only every other day, or even every third day, and letting your hair air-dry whenever possible. If you’re near the beach there is no excuse for heat styling as just combing some leave-in treatment through your hair and letting it air-dry should get you perfect, beachy waves. Away from the shore you can get easy waves with a sock bun (Youtube it!) or Goody Spin Pins (you only need two and they’ll hold your bun up all day, or until you take it down and set your waves free… I am literally wearing them right now!). If you’re somewhere where the water is terrible, and looking good is really important, you can also try washing and rinsing with bottled water (look for a reputable international brand name like Evian so you’re not just using grossly-overpriced local tap water!).
Posted in Beauty Abroad, Beauty Tips, Don't Leave Home Without It
Tagged backpacking, beauty, conditioner, dove, hair, loreal, shampoo, SPF, sun care, travel
Yesterday (Sunday, May 5th) marked Orthodox Easter. The period leading up to Easter is traditionally a period of fasting, during which meat and dairy products are avoided. A typical vegan dish that might be consumed during this time can be seen above- polenta (mămăligă) with mushroom stew (tocană de ciuperci). Visitors to Romania can order this type of vegan food- called măncare de post- at any time, not just during Lent.
I sampled these dishes (plus a bean stew too!) at La Mama in Mamaia. La Mama has a number of locations, mainly in Bucharest.
Posted in Food, Mealtime Monday
Tagged backpacking, bucharest, easter, food, la mama, lent, mamaia, mancare, mancare de post, romania, travel, vegan, vegetarian
It’s a cruel twist of traveler fate that the hottest countries around the world are often the most conservative (at least when it comes to fashion). Last summer I backpacked from Albania to Estonia, along the way passing through predominantly-Muslim areas and other cities with fascinating Orthodox churches that beckoned me inside. When you’re backpacking you usually get around on foot or by public transit, so popping back to a hotel to change your clothes isn’t an easy task. A few simple adjustments to your packing list can ensure that you beat the heat, look stylish AND respect local customs.
Personally, I love wearing knee-length skirts while I travel. Sure, short shorts are cute and all, but I’d rather not let my upper thigh touch the hot plastic seat on a Balkan city bus, thanks. By pairing a high-waisted knee-length skirt with a tucked-in t-shirt or tank you can create a cute, dress-like look that is unlikely to be frowned upon in most situations. This summer the high-low skirt look is very trendy, and while this trend is unlikely to have much longevity it is another slightly-more-proper alternative to a mini-anything. Adding a pair of earrings and bejeweled flats takes your wardrobe from “sloppy backpacker” to “fabulous femme”.
The real key, though, is what you pack in your purse. Make sure your purse zips closed (keep those pick-pocking hands at bay), and inside stuff a scarf and/or cropped cardigan (I prefer the latter). Throw this on to go into a church or into a seedy bar full of men to cover bare shoulders and follow house rules. I would say that this outfit was appropriate for 99% of places I have visited, and only the most conservative and religious parts of the world will expect you to cover more.
Posted in Fashion, How to Dress, Travel Tips
Tagged ALDO, backpacking, culture, customs, fashion, flat sandals, high-low skirts, Mango, Oasis, polyvore, religion, style, travel
Recently, while skimming some of my favorite beauty blogs, I came across a series on Into the Gloss about how to clean your face. Unlike Allure‘s much-maligned “how to take a shower” guide from a few years ago, there were actually some things to learn from French facialist Isabelle Bellis over on ITG. Namely, Isabelle recommends spraying your face with mineral water (rather than splashing with tap water), rubbing your face wash a bit to heat it up, and then applying it with very specific motions. She’s also got tips for toner, and in a second video, instructions for getting the most out of your moisturizer (if you’re not pianotage-ing, you’re doing it wrong!).
Since the same site already taught me to get “French Girl, Model-Off-Duty” hair (hint: don’t brush it!), I thought I’d give French skin care a try too. I picked up some La Roche Posay mineral water and stocked up on Roc Cleansing Water (the latter is on sale at Shoppers Drug Mart stores across Canada for $11, while quantities last). For the ultimate French experience try Bioderma – Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution, the most famous gentle French cleanser.
After just one day of following Isabelle’s advice and “treating my skin like silk” I can see a difference and I promise to report back after (hopefully) sticking with the regime for a few weeks.
In the spirit of last week’s On Being Vegetarian in Mexico, I bring you a heaping bowl of vegetarian posole dished up in Zapopan, Mexico. Traditionally, posole is made from hominy (corn kernals treated with lime or wood ash) and pork. At this restaurant in Zapopan (a suburb of Guadalajara) the hominy remains but the pork is replaced with heaps of mushrooms. Oh, and the broth, which is usually made from red chiles, becomes spinach-based. On the side there was shredded lettuce and lime to garnish the soup, and my glass of horchata can be seen too.
You can try vegetarian posole at Fonda Gabina Escolastica at Javier Mina #237 in Zapopan (there is a street with the same name in central Guadalajara- you will not find this restaurant there!).
You can get Mealtime Monday updates directly in your Facebook feed! Just click the button to your right and “Like” us!